President Higgins meets Raúl Castro in Cuba

The meeting between the two heads of state was said to have been “warm and comprehensive"

President Higgins meets Raúl Castro in Cuba

Michael D Higgins and Raul Castro. Image: President of Ireland via Twitter

President Higgins and his Cuban counterpart Raúl Castro met for four hours at an official state dinner last night.

Michael D Higgins is the first Irish head of state to visit Cuba while in office.

The visit was arranged several months ago, before the death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro who died last December.

President Higgins had been criticised for his remarks upon the death of the former leader Castro, where he was accused of being “fawning” in his statement.

The president remarked that Fidel Castro was a “giant among global leaders” - in sharp contrast to Minister Charlie Flanagan who said Castro was a “dictator.”

The president has since defended his comments, pointing to his long history and career as a human rights defender in all parts of the globe, where he says he is never discriminatory when condemning or questioning any government on their human rights record.

Last night, the president’s bi-lateral meeting between the two heads of state was said to have been “warm and comprehensive".

President Higgins raised the issue of civil liberties and LGBT rights.

Part of the agenda was to discuss global issues affecting the world, and how Ireland and Cuba can enhance cooperation in the areas of trade, as well as cultural and educational exchanges.

They also discussed President Higgins strong interest in Latin American culture and studies.

Later today, at the Havana International Book Festival, President Higgins will be a special guest, alongside several Irish authors including Joseph O’Connor and Colm Toibin.

Mr O’Connor’s book The Star of the Sea is to be translated into Spanish for the first time.